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Culture, Perspectives

Vertical Thinking

Can We Really be Proud Without Pride?

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Zayna Ratty

This question might fall from the lips of a seasoned pride-goer and those who spend the summer travelling around pride events. The sense of community and belonging we can garner from a pride festival is huge and self-affirming.

When I was voted in as chair of Oxford Pride in 2019, I was fully aware it was a huge job and that my team and I would be working hard all year for that one highlight. I didn’t factor in a global pandemic during which many people we knew would lose their lives.

We worked hard to produce this year’s festival and parade day; we had planned our theme of #DiverseCity for May 2020, booked acts, liaised with emergency services, and sought out sponsors so our day remained free to attend.

The decision to postpone was made early on. With the chances of May being the peak of the pandemic, there was no choice.

One of the parallels is with the HIV/AIDS crisis. It was a little understood virus about which those memorable adverts and government leaflets created panic, mistrust amongst friends and a culture of phobia, prejudice and terror.

But the queer community also came together at that time. We’ve also fought for the removal of Section 28, civil partnerships, gender recognition and equal marriage.

We have always been fighting external and often internal factors, and maybe this latest global crisis can facilitate us to look again at our community, to what is possible if we act as one.

We’re seeing myriad use of online platforms, a virtual circle of support, a joining of community that maybe we hadn’t seen before. We have evolved ways to become emotionally closer.

Oxford Pride are aiming to provide some events later in the year, for us to physically come together once more to feel the warm glow of acceptance and shake away the heavy cloud of isolation that many people live day in, day out.

For now, recognise any dysphoria may increase in isolation, find affirmation where you can, seek out positive and supportive friends, and be proud of what we have achieved.

And remember, the celebration and protest of pride will be back.

oxford-pride.org.uk

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